Treating Compulsive Shopping with Hypnotherapy – Glasgow Hypnotherapy


Magazine For Hypnosis and 

Treating Compulsive Shopping with Hypnotherapy

Ellen Hecht, CHt 
UPLOADED 20/12/2004

Many lay people, therapists and even physicians are unaware of the scope of physical and psychological ailments which hypnotherapy can successfully cure. Although it is well known that hypnosis is used commonly to help with weight loss and remove nail biting and smoking habits, positive results can also be achieved in the building of self-esteem, in motivation, depression, stress, chronic pain, jaw clenching (TMJ) and a variety of compulsive behaviors. In particular, with respect to compulsive behavior, hypnosis can give rapid and even immediate relief.

In 1995, The Menninger Letter published more than one article on compulsive shopping by Dr. Donald W. Black, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. He recommended including the use of the prescription medication Luvox, in the treatment of patients presenting with a compulsive shopping disorder.

I believe hypnotherapy is an effective alternative treatment of habitual and compulsive shopping without the use of drugs. Here are my notes on a client I will call Elise Hansen (not her real name).

Elise was a single, attractive, slim and financially successful woman who was 37 at the time she came to see me. She had called to ask for the help to get control over her compulsive shopping habit which had gradually created an enormous credit card debt.

She confided to me that it was no longer the pleasure of owning attractive clothes and accessories that drove her, but the need to purchase them. She admitted that she frequently justified her purchases by shopping on sale, yet she rarely saved money doing this, as she charged everything on credit cards with high interest rates. This would result in a cost per item of the same or even more than if she had bought the item at the regular price and paid cash.

Moreover, Elise frequently returned the items afterwards, and expressed an awareness that the real emotional benefit was from the purchase and not the actual owning of the item.



After hypnotic induction the session went as follows:

THERAPIST: Elise, I want you to imagine that you have entered your favorite store.

CLIENT: (Smiling) Nordstrom!

THERAPIST: All right. Now you are strolling around the store. You browse until you see something you would like to buy.

CLIENT: There are these great shoes.

THERAPIST: What do they look like?

CLIENT: They’re green suede. Oh, they’re great!

THERAPIST: All right. Now you’ve tried them on and they fit. What do you do next?

CLIENT: I go to the clerk at the counter.

THERAPIST: Okay. Now you give her your credit card.

CLIENT: Oh, I don’t need to.

THERAPIST: Why is that?

CLIENT: I know the number by heart.

THERAPIST: And what does the clerk do?

CLIENT: She’s smiling.

THERAPIST: Do you know her?

CLIENT: Yes. She likes me.

THERAPIST: Elise. The clerk is not a friend of yours. She’s a clerk at the store.

She gets paid a commission from your purchases. She is smiling

because it is her job to be friendly. Would she be your friend if she

didn’t work there? [taking some of the pleasure away from the shopping



THERAPIST: What happens next?

CLIENT: She puts the shoes in a bag. I take it and I walk out.

THERAPIST: How do you feel?

CLIENT: Happy.


CLIENT: No. I feel sad. I feel depressed.

THERAPIST: You feel sad and depressed?

CLIENT: And guilty.

THERAPIST: Okay Elise. You walk out of the store with the bag.

What is in the bag?

CLIENT: What is in the bag? Shoes.

THERAPIST: No. What is in the bag is sadness, depression and guilt.

Do you want to take that home?


THERAPIST: Good. You don’t ever want to take that home with you. And you realize now that you will never buy anything that you don’t really need, since the purchase of it will not give you what you really want. In the future, you will get better at identifying activities that bring you real satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment and pride.

The client was brought out of hypnosis with affirmations that she felt very good about herself and her future. Suggestions were made that she would find a better use of her time by occasionally volunteering with a non-profit organization of her choice and would get the satisfaction she was looking for by helping people, (the satisfaction that was lacking in her attempts to find happiness by obtaining “things.”)


After only one session, Elise reported having stopped her compulsive shopping, and re-confirmed this a year later with the therapist. She had began volunteering at a home for developmentally handicapped children, something she would have never considered in the past, having previously been strongly focused on herself.

Ellen Hecht is a clinical hypnotherapist registered with the American Board of Hypnotherapy. She has a private practice in Central California and teaches workshops in meditation and stress management. 
She can be reached by e-mail at: .
If you write to her, please put the word ‘hypnosis’ in the subject line.

Contact: Linda Alexander on 0141 632 1440 or 07875 493 358, also

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